When travel is done right, it has the potential to transform all people involved. And that is magical stuff.
One of the most beautiful gifts I have received in my life is the opportunity to travel fairly extensively. These travels include many European countries (back in my more youthful days), much of the United States and also limited portions of Canada and Mexico.
Through my travels, I have come to understand that as human beings we must be conscious — and cautious — of what we bring along with us in our travels.
I am not referring to the contents of our suitcases or backpacks. No, I am focusing on something deeper than that.
Travel Truth #1: What We Find Is Deeply Affected By What We Bring
This truth reveals itself most plainly when we encounter unfamiliar, intimidating situations. And where are we more likely to encounter the intimidation and uncertainty of the unknown than in our travels?
But that doesn’t mean this truth is limited only to the realm of travel. In fact, in any situation we encounter we have to be hyper-aware of what we bring into the mix. Because it is always a mix. No situation in life is completely unaffected by what we bring along.
Today, however, I want to stay focused on travel.
Let’s put some skin on this thing, bring it into the real world, so that you can fully understand where I am going with this. And why it matters.
If we bring the expectation of being entertained and wowed from dawn to dusk…
Let’s be honest: It’s pretty easy to launch into our travels with expectations that are a bit out of whack.
It makes some sense, I guess. If I save and plan for months or years for my excursion, I need for it to pay off. I need for it to feel “worth it”. I need to justify everything it took to make this adventure happen.
Most importantly, I need those perfect, stylized Instagram shots to prove it to the internet.
Blinded by expectations
But what does this mindset endanger? It endangers the possibility of just being present, of encountering the sacred in the mundane. It puts the traveler at risk of missing what is happening just beneath the glossy, touristy surface.
And, most importantly, it endangers my chances of seeing, appreciating and connecting with other human beings who have a unique perspective to share, who display a beauty and wisdom all their own.
You see, when our entire travel experience is at the mercy of our needy agendas, I believe we will miss the magic of traveling almost entirely. Because most of the magic is hidden within the people we encounter.
If we bring the expectation of being flawlessly served, catered to and treated “respectfully”…
This one might hit a little too close to home for those of us with a pulse.
Generally speaking, we have been raised to expect being treated well and served without question or hesitation by those in the “services” industry.
We’ve all said things like, “Well it’s their JOB!” or “There is no excuse for that kind of service.”
But in reality, especially in our travels, there may be very good reasons we don’t receive the type of service or respect we think we deserve.
Before we open our mouths, before we take a bite, before we even sit down, and definitely before we leave an insultingly small tip (guilty), our demeanor and our energy has often told the whole story. We sometimes don’t feel respected, or even welcome, because that energy precedes us. And the outcome is decided before the encounter even begins.
In other words, we find exactly what we bring to the situation. The outer circumstances mirror our inner state.
Respect looks very different in different cultures
It’s all too easy to show up in a new location with our preconceived notions of what respect actually looks and sounds like. When we don’t see precisely what we hope and expect to see, we become bothered.
It is all borne of the perspective — and the energy — we bring.
More to the point, it is all about what we truly value. When we value having a “perfect” experience over making cross-cultural connections and expanding our own understanding through offering respect for this new culture, we will always miss out.
When we value landscapes over lives, we become tourists — not travelers.
But if we bring reverence for this unfamiliar culture, curiosity about these unique people…
What humanity needs is for each of us to let go of our cherished expectations and simply expand. Travel gives us that opportunity, but it’s easy to miss if we are not truly open.
The world does not need us to fix them and teach them what is proper. Nor does the world need to be squeezed into our tiny box labeled “acceptable things”.
The world needs us to show up with eager anticipation of what we might learn and how we might be changed.
Travel — at its core — is a beautiful opportunity to change, to grow, to expand our consciousness through human connection. As mutual understanding grows out of these sacred connections, the world may be — and can be — slowly healed.
Don’t be a Tourist
So if you are blessed with the gift of travel, bring reverence along for your journey and you just might encounter the sacred in the most unfamiliar and unlikely places.
Bring curiosity, and you will drive fear out of the equation and avoid missing out on the magical.
Bring openness on your travels, and you are likely to attract astoundingly kind, wise and hospitable people to you.
Don’t be a tourist, bowing down in each moment to your almighty agenda and anemic expectations.
Instead, be a traveler searching relentlessly for connection, expansion, beauty and wisdom wherever your path leads.
Be a traveler, be grateful for the gift, and be transformed.
You may just start a ripple that will spread and heal our world.
I hope you will stay tuned for more Travel Truths coming your way in the future!